The Martini Diaries – Episode 2

In which I re-discover classic 1980s American mystery TV, attend the Georgia National Day Reception as guest of their Ambassador to the UK, review ‘ What If’ on Netflix, add two new knitted silk ties to my growing collection, finally finish and review 2 Churchill biographies (and the latest Jeffrey Archer thriller), and discover the Milanese Gin and Tonic.

Monday May 27th 2019

Over the weekend I ordered a DVD box set of 22 episodes from the final season of the American TV series ‘Hart to Hart’. They arrived today, and my wife and I have just spent a very pleasant 45 minutes watching the first episode.

Hart to Hart is an American mystery tv series – it premiered in the USA on August 25, 1979. The show features Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers who play Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, a wealthy couple who lead a jetset lifestyle and regularly find themselves working as amateur detectives in order to solve crimes in which they become embroiled. The series concluded after five seasons on May 22, 1984. I have collected all the seasons recently, having enjoyed the original TV shows when they first broadcast.

Why are these 1980 TV shows still great fun and enjoyable entertainment? Perhaps it is because the initial choice for the role of Jonathan Hart was one of my great style icons, Cary Grant. However, Grant (who was 75 years old at the time) had retired from acting some years earlier and declined the role. The producers decided to find a younger actor who might embody the same style, zest and persona that Grant was famous for and offered the role to Robert Wagner. There is indeed much of that 1950s, 1960s style about the show.

TV shows today are clearly very different – it is impossible to think anyone would commission such a show as Hart to Hart today. No blood, no nudity, no swearing, limited violence, a script never quite believable (we used to joke that no one would ever want to become friends with the Harts because they would land up being killed – similar to why you would never want to live in Midsummer!).

All that said, at 45 minutes an episode, it is enjoyable escapism. The clothes are fun, the sets are classic for that late 1970s/early 1980s and capture so much of the fun and optimism I remember for those days as a young man. Robert Wagner is very cool in his role, and Stephanie Powers is a delight to watch. After all who would not want to be “Jonathon Hart, a self made millionaire, he’s quite a guy….”

Wednesday 29 May 2019

This evening I attended the Georgia National Day Reception, hosted by the Georgian Ambassador to the Court of St James, Her Excellency Mrs Tamar Beruchashvili. I was introduced to the Ambassador last year through her husband and daughter, who kindly hosted me during my first visit to Georgia last September. The Reception was a splendid affair, with 8,000 year old Georgian wines to sample, Khachapuri (cheese-filled bread, which is to die for) and a fun, inspiring speech by the charming actress Joanna Lumley (who was the guest of honour).

Georgia is an extraordinary country (and people). Their history includes adopting Christianity in the early 4th Century, perfecting the oldest form of wine (which is made in clay pots) 8,000 years ago, developing advanced metallurgy from 700 BC, being the location for the Greek mythology ‘Golden Fleece’, incorporation into the Russian Empire in 1801 (and at various points being subjected to the Greek and Ottoman empires, and being a protectorate of the British Empire for 2 years), the birth country of Stalin, and becoming independent on 26 May 1918. In 1921 the Soviet Union invaded Georgia and retained control until Georgia declared independence again on 31 March 1991.

During her speech the Ambassador spoke passionately about her country’s expanding political, cultural and economic advances in recent years (despite the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia continuing since 2008). She praised the UK for its commitments to the growth of Georgia.

Towards the end of the Reception I spoke with the Ambassador and she explained her plans to develop stronger scientific links between the UK and Georgia.

With the Georgian Ambassador (centre) and Dr Manana

Following on from the work of my organisation last September (and since) in helping to build a new Nutrition Society in Georgia the Ambassador asked if we could be one of the role models for the project – I naturally accepted. I retain a real affection for Georgia and its peoples. Tbilisi is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited. The hospitality and genuine kindness of its people naturally draws me to them. My ambition is to return in February of next year to try out the skiing, which I am led to believe is outstanding. I will keep you posted on developments.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Today I have started to watch a new series on Netflix – ‘What If’. It is a dark, sinister, and totally bewitching thriller. Renee Zellweger, Jane Levy and Blake Jenner star in it. I am only a few episodes in, but it passes my benchmark of a good ‘box set’ – at the end of an episode you cannot wait the start the next one (‘Damages’ having set the benchmark for that sensation a few years ago).

The premise starts fairly simply – what happens when normal acceptable people start doing unacceptable things, in this case accepting funding for a start-up company with certain conditions attached. I will say no more. But, you have to see it!

Friday 31 May 2019

I have added to my knitted silk tie collection (again!). I find these styles of tie addictive. The silk delivers a sense of formality, yet the knitted texture delivers a more relaxed feel. As such they work with most kinds of situations I find myself in. I am still struggling to embrace the ‘no tie CEO’ culture – it just doesn’t feel right leaving the house in the morning with an open neck (but occasionally I try). I dress for myself, not anyone else after all.

Today I added a sky blue (to match with my new yellow blazer), and a horizontal strip red/blue. Both of these are from Hawes and Curtis. The horizontal stripe is not something I have tried very often – it will be interesting how that feels. Both ties will be unveiled next weekend onwards when I travel to Baltimore for a business trip.

Saturday 1st June 2019

It always difficult for me to pick up a book, start it, and then give it my continued attention until it is finished. At anyone time I may have up to 6 books on the go at various stages of completion. This week though I have managed to complete 3 which have been ongoing for several months. ‘Walking With Destiny’ (a Churchill biography by Andrew Roberts) has been open since Christmas!

But, wow, what a wonderful book to be reading during the Brexit chaos of the past 5 months, and the weak political leadership and behaviour of those months. Churchill books nowadays tend to fall either into the sycophantic idolisation or the focus on an attention grabbing character fault (xenophobic, racist, murderer etc). This book, although written by an admirer of Churchill’s, is very balanced. It covers his strengths as well as weaknesses and sets out to find the cause (and often effect) behind the major character traits. As such, it has been the most enjoyable biography since Roy Jenkin’s 2001 book.

Somewhat different, although also a biography of Churchill, has been ‘How Churchill Waged War’, written by Allen Packwood (the Director of the Churchill Archives Centre). A fascinating book, narrowly focused on Churchill’s performance as Prime Minister from May 1940 until the end of the War in 1945. This is a tour de force in analysis of each of the crucial decisions Churchill faced over the most demanding period faced ever by a British Prime Minister. It is essential reading for anyone in a leadership position who wishes to learn more about decision making on a global scale, whilst under multiple layers of pressure. Having finished the book one again cannot but help make comparisons with today’s leaders in politics. For example in 1943 it was agreed to take back mainland Europe from the Nazi powers – in just one year the UK and its leaders planned the largest ever military and logistical exercise. Millions of tonnes of supplies, equipment, humans from many nations, were trained and assembled, much of it secrecy. In June 1944 the UK and its allies invaded Europe and set it free, despite massive risks and danger. In 2016 we voted to leave the European Union, a political and trading alliance. 3 years later we still have not left, and we are told it is because it is a complex situation. Really? History shows us otherwise.

My final book has been another one of those delightful pieces of escapism by Jeffrey Archer – ‘Heads You Win’. Archer excels in writing these generational sagas. The plot is always the same, the usual friends and villains help the key characters navigate through life. However, this book has a fabulous twist. It is based on a decision made early in the book and then each chapter tells how the outcome would have been for both choices, written in parallel. There is a mind boggling twist at the end – worth waiting for!

Sunday June 2nd, 2019

I finish the week with a new discovery. My favourite summer drink is Campari and Soda, it has been so since first tasting one many years ago (in the 1990s) in Sardinia at an outdoor bar at the harbour in Cagliari (I was there as part of a military investigation into trade union corruption). I am a creature of habit, and once I find something I like it is hard to change.

My new discovery may change that! The Milanese Gin and Tonic. It is equal parts gin to Campari, and then add tonic and a slice of orange. Invented apparently at the Campari London headquarters in the Shard. It is reminiscent of a pink gin – that much loved drink in the Officers’ Mess of my youth. You should try.

Cheers! Molly, my Cavachon, and I wish you a happy week.

Molly and I enjoying a post-work G&T on Friday evening at the Ipswich waterfront

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